Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sharon' is Karen'


Dark clouds loomed in the distance, waiting to move in for the kill. We drove on, keeping one eye on the clouds and one on the roads.

We stopped and handed Malvin a bag, but he and his Rolling Stones were more interested in cash. He needed $50 for rent, we hand none. We dreamed of Arizona together.

The clouds grew larger and we traveled in their direction. We parked at the edge of the woods and Karen shouted from her Mary-protected house. "I got some blankets for the guys, do you want to take 'em?" She handed us an enormous bag of warm and comfortable goodies, and like Santa Claus, I threw the load over my should and hiked into the greenery.

We spent some time with Perch, Bob and Senior and complained about the mosquitoes.

I received a text message about a storm, and then the tornado sirens sounded. "What do you do with a group of high school students in the woods when a tornado comes?" I asked myself. The tents looked a bit unfit for protection from high winds, so we trucked it back to the van.

The clouds had made their move. Darkness surrounded us and began to close in. Text message, phone call, text message, phone call, the voices of warning weighed heavy with distress.

Atop the Hoban hill, we watched the storm settle above us and let loose. An hour or so later, Mr. Horinger and I drove back out with some bags stuffed in our cars. We pulled into St. Bernard's. Good thing, too. A crowd waited.

"Got any socks? Mine are soaked?"

I turned to my car hoping that socks would magically appear. Nothing. "I had them in the van. If it wasn't for the storm, I'd have socks."

"If it wasn't for the storm, I wouldn't be wet."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Mamas and the Papas

Sometimes you're driving home from a night of Project Hope and you wonder to yourself, "What just happened." Well, that was last night.

We ended the night at Mama's. To any HOPE veteran that would say it all.

It started with a long and muddied trek through the woods and across the tracks and over the hills and through the woods and across the other tracks and over a couple more hills. Alas, we found the tent village of Perch.

Here we meet Bill and his bloodied face. He stumbles from the tent and lets loose unguarded honesty and vulnerability. The drink is the only way to soften the pain of his wife's death. There is another equally sobering confession to my left, and I try to listen in on both conversations. Bill acknowledges the booze won't answer any questions or pull him from his misery. "I'm crazy. I know I'm going crazy," he says in reference to still talking to his wife. To my left, stories of horrific Vietnam War memories wrench at my ear.

Pain and sorrow rule in this little village of tents. As usual, we hope to wash that away for a bit. We listen and offer reassurance.

"You guys don't judge. God Bless you," Bill says, and by the end of the night, he's warmed up to us to the point that he's cracking jokes and smiling.

It's a rough night emotionally for all involved. But challenges such as tonight provide us with the experiences necessary to find answers for the future so that we can take action and make a positive difference in someone's life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Back Sweat Neck Tatt

From Ellen's Pen:

We met Bill on his yellow 12 speed bike and he is saying it is killing him, he says he is used to an 18 speed and his sister gave him this one after his Ford bike was stolen at BK when he went in to get a cup of coffee and some lunch. Later, someone found his Ford emblem but not his bike. His previous bike was decorated with a speedometer and lights and he bought another one, but later went back to his trusty Ford bike. He also said he's frightened of heights when he fell off a ladder into sand and a guy said, "Are you okay?" and he replied, "I just got here."

Jake said he wants to try it so Bill says. "I'll take you to a high level bridge and get a bungee chord and push you over. he also said he's been over waterfalls in a barrel or canoe and likes bike races.

Mr Horinger starts walking down into the woods looking for more people and Alex and Tejas go down after him. Then they come up and Mr. Horinger twists around too much and falls flat on his back on the ground and Mr. Milo says, "We should eat him, " and Bill says, "We should fry him and cook him..."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Nobody gets there on the easy trail."

Part 5 of another series by Alan Schumacher

The evening was winding down as we approached St. Bernards. Fifth stop. Awaiting us was a single digit crowd. I spotted this slouched man off to the side when everyone seemed to be taken care of with a story. Joe was reserved as he spooned out the warm soup. Not social, but he wasn't in a rush. Sunken in the face, his eyes holding back a lot of emotions. They spoke out and told me of a tough life, regret unfortunately slipping into the back of the mind, terrorizing himself. The seemingly forced conversation, on my part, consisted of awkward intervals between each question I delivered. Vague, or not, he answered politely to aid a collected background. No confidence in his voice, Joe was thirty. I was caught off guard by the number because he looked older. Must be the built up stress, must have been through a lot. He was born in San Diego, with no memory of the place because Akron would be where he was raised. Said his mother brought him here as an infant, due to work. No father mentioned in the dialogue. Joe didn't describe interest in any sports, said he had blown out his knee sophomore year playing football, but the passion given up on. Figured out that he went to three schools in high school. Joe attended Norton freshman year, Green sophomore year, and finished his educational career at Ellet. Supposedly, Norton was his favorite because that was when he received the least suspensions. Joe got caught up in a lot of drama and engaged in fights, as defense to broken loyalty. "One thing led to another." Joe said this with a smirk his lips would cover, he produced no smiles. The advice to look after yourself because you can only control you, not trusting anyone, the mistake of worrying about others opinion, brought about brief emotion. Water was beginning to form in his eyes, but Joe quickly found a detour in fighting the feeling back. He didn't want to show that side, to open up, he was following his advice not to trust me. Though, continued to show signs of opening up. Joe didn't attend college, but said he took a random, three month, trip to Alaska after high school. "Just to get away." No specifications on what he was running from or the events he experienced on the trip. Then at twenty-two, Joe hit me without the contact. No details involved, but told me he had witnessed his friend commit suicide by walking in front of a train. I said nothing as shock seeped in. How could you recover from that? The helpless thought that you could have prevented the incident, it's awful. For seven years he apparently didn't speak about what happened, it was too hard for his chest, and bottled up the despair. I was touched because that would mean recently is when he has been able to murmur of the time. He was trying to cope with something unforgettable. Joe would proceed to say, with a threatening smile, he has a six year old daughter. A blessing, he had something to live for. He was unsure of his living situation, or didn't want to let me gain such information. I imagined, by our conversation, things weren't easy for Joe. Things were definitely left out in his responses, but you got the picture. Joe had handled scenarios poorly in his life and was struggling. He had made mistakes and endured bad experiences, seen terrible sights. The last thing he had to say was that nothing comes easy and to work for what you want. Well, I learned a great deal and knew I didn't want to be giving that advice down the road from Joe's shoes. Couldn't help but feel appreciation for what I had, either. Oh, how spoiled I am compared to the hard time of men like Joe. I was blessed to meet him. I won't forget the encounter.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Keep it real."

Part 4 of another series by Alan Schumacher

Fourth stop. N. College Street is where we brake, I know where I am. Tonight, there is no birthday celebration. The house we park in front of and apartments are in view of Grace Park across the street. Coincidentally, as the park provides the gift of leisure and satisfaction, our objective is to bring favor to the people eager at the site of our van. The person standing out tonight was Jimmy. "Hard Life, brother, and don't forget it." He had the first two words tattooed onto his knuckles. The ink was imprinted when he was fourteen. Oh, and he happened to be on heroine, at the time. Yeah, only fourteen. I still can't comprehend that. Jimmy has been battling drug addiction and abuse throughout his life. Still drinking alcohol, as he slurred his speech, but in the recent year he has kept sober from drugs. Nothing I could imagine, it must of been a tough transition. A wooden cross on his chest, Jimmy asks if I have a problem that it is "cheap." No, I don't. That's good in Jimmy's eyes because you don't have to have pricey jewelry to have faith, or to find God, and he is right. I was also informed that Jimmy has two sons, only one he is close to. The other has been in a coma for twenty-two years. Yeah, that catches a person off guard. Said he doesn't visit, it's too emotional. "Technically, he's alive in your world, but dead in mine." Well, how would you feel if you were in his shoes? Obvious pain caused from this coming off of Jimmy's defensive face. Yet, he insists I know nothing of him and if I have a problem, "We can handle it." He breathes toughness, no questioning it. No laughing allowed, either, Jimmy gives this serious impression. You know, he's right. I was only informed on some brief facts about him and able to be involved in one short conversation, if it even was a conversation. I know some things, but very little of Jimmy. I don't know how he got caught up in drugs, the reasoning behind it, or the emotional tolls he has taken. I don't know his family or background. Neither does anyone who judges people like Jimmy. He was a heroine addict so he must be a bad person, right? No, we know nothing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Y'all in college?"

Part 3 of another series by Alan Schumacher

On Power Street, a section of newer apartments was built for Akron U. I usually drive through the area on Brown en route to school, behind the common view. In the shadows is a structure built of lesser value. The home of Devin. Third stop, for me. He possessed a genuine smile with a nervous glare simultaneously racing in excitement. Rachel, John, and myself were the only ones to visit. While delivering a Project Hope concoction we learned that Devin was eighteen, a junior at Garfield, and played football. He asked if we were in college, not thinking we could possibly be in the same grade. Not sure if it was our gestures, tone, appearance, or posture. I was humbled, though, by his instant respect society certainly isn't so quick to present. We were supposed to look down on Devin. Oh, he came from worse conditions and went to a less competitive school so we were above him. Well, everyone should stop hanging onto image, onto materials. Devin couldn't help how he grew up or where he lived, just like any teenager. Arrogance didn't corrupt our nerves. Told him, to his surprise, that we were juniors, too. We just had the fortune to come from a different setting, to attend a more competitive school. He acknowledged that he knew some students at Hoban, even related to one. The reality is that Devin is our peer. We are all taking a journey, seeking happiness, just granted different roads to begin our travel. My gratitude should be above average, but I wasn't above Devin. Both human, the factors in the equation being the difference nobody controls. Society shouldn't jump to conclusions, but make more solutions to aid the less fortunate.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

South and Grant

Part 2 of another series by Alan Schumacher

The corner of a bp station was the location. This was an unintentional second stop. Random and brief, we met Randy. Well, life can't always be planned and impacts can happen in the blink of an eye. Mr. Milo's spotting of this haggard gentleman aroused the good intention. Parked in the station, Mr. Milo introduced himself as the two met behind our van. I happened to be sitting in the back. As the latch was opened I was able to introduce myself. Cookies, chips, and a bare bagel was our gesture. Lucky to find a cheap paint job or two, homeless, Randy was thankful. The feeling of guilt emerges, as it should with others, because I know I've let dates expire on these small snacks in the past. Randy proceeded to say, "Ain't nobody messier than me." It was spoken in a tone of hidden sorrow with a faint laugh to follow. He must of felt unique by his personality, by his appearance. The personality of a hungry human as he graciously started to devour the bare bagel. It's not abnormal wanting to eat when hunger rustles the stomach. Uncertainty filled the thought of next meal, as well, leaving no fill. It's not abnormal wanting to eat when hunger rustles the stomach. The appearance of someone handling personal hard time, sound unfamiliar? We all have our individual downs. Unlike Randy felt, not involved in a phase pointed up, more people should know there are bigger messes out there. We didn't get any gas, but fueled someone's evening. Homeless people are among us, poverty exists. Help clean the "mess." If more people recognized this and were compelled to assist, that would be unique.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Spanky, get over here."

Part 1 of another series by Alan Schumacher

The stationary RV could be passed as a tailgate vehicle for the Cleveland Browns. It was the home of Mr. Lucas, instead. Mozart and Spanky are his company. Both smaller sized dogs, of the same breed, with a white coat. No longer fury creatures, they were sporting new haircuts. The two pets are synonymous to the volleyball in Cast Away, the movie, but with four legs and very real. If Cast Away hasn't crossed your theater, Wilson, the volleyball, is Tom Hanks best friend. Fellowship is the theme. "As long as I'm here...As long as their here." Mr. Lucas affectionately sighed these words explaining the aided survival of the three involved in an overlooked lifestyle. A bond bringing love to the eyes. Yeah, even a person society deeming unequal visibly feeling this emotion for his companions. Strange? No, more along normal lines. Strange is the view that this man is different than those comfortably living. I'm talking about in the human sense. Mr. Lucas "saved up" to provide a haircut to his best friends. That's no stress for the comfortably living and a project for this man. The act shows he cares for them. People's superiority overriding their beat, more sound coming from the smaller voices. False generalizations among our population thrown at an innocent catcher. This judgmental fastball is pitched with the heat of ignorance. I was struck by a curve ball that spins equality into my head. Doubters become witnessed as the "unintelligent" provided a lesson. Thanks Mr. Lucas.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May 4

Sometimes the greatest stops during Project HOPE are off the cuff. We spotted Randy flying a sign in the distance. We quickly turned the van around and stopped to greet him. He expressed genuine appreciation, emphasized by his Texan talk. We handed him some chips and cookies and a cup of soup. He smiled a lot and then walked off to the garage where he is staying.

We met a couple younger friends tonight. It's hard to accept someone at the age of 18 with no one--no one to look after him, no one to share moments with. Of no fault of his own, he lives alone with a difficult path ahead of him. From a religious standpoint, where is our Christianity when this is allowed to exist in our community? From a patriotic standpoint, where is our support for our American countrymen?